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August 21, 2021

What they're saying: Hurts' biggest endorsement came in his absence; WRs trending in opposite directions

Eagles NFL

Following that 35-0 drubbing at the hands of the Patriots on Thursday night, we're in a bit of a dead period when it comes to the Eagles. 

Following an off day on Friday, the Birds will only have a (private) walkthrough on Saturday before an open practice at the Linc on Sunday night. Monday will bring another off day as Nick Sirianni and his team makes the long and arduous journey up I-95 to visit the Jets for a pair of joint practices leading in to their third and final preseason game.

In other words, the Eagles will be having just one practice open to the media between Thursday night's loss and their first practice in New Jersey on Tuesday — coincidentally the same day the Eagles will need to make the next round of cuts by — and that won't be coming until Sunday night at the Linc.

So, with the preseason 2/3 of the way over and some down time for the team, we figured it's as good a time as any to take a look at what they're saying about the Birds in the aftermath of their 0-2 start in exhibition. Let's dive right in...  

Hurts when you're gone

Jason La Canfora | CBS Sports

Over at CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora offered up an interesting take on the Eagles' second-year quarterback, who was a last-minute scratch against the Patriots after playing well against Bill Belichick's team during joint practices. Essentially, Hurt's absence was arguably the strongest case he could've made as to why he should be the starter. I mean, just look at the Eagles' other options... 

Obviously, barring injury Hurts will be the starter when the season opens in Atlanta in three weeks, whether or not the team wants to make it official or not.

Jalen Hurts being a late scratch Thursday night was disappointing for all, but it certainly seemed as if the youngster's absence only strengthened his grip on the Eagles' starting job. [...]

From what I saw of Hurts earlier in the week, in the joint practices with the Patriots leading up to this exhibition game, he looks up to the task. Hurts was the most consistently effective quarterback on display in those sessions, excelling in special situations as well as between the 20s, and his athleticism and unpredictable style was a problem for the Patriots. Particularly on designed boots and roll-outs, when Hurts went to his right, bad things happened to the opposing defense. 

Hurts could make plays flipping the ball to running back Miles Sanders, or by keeping it himself, and he is at ease throwing on the run, making pretty passes in intermediate quadrants and deep down the sideline as well. Yeah, it does cut the field off, somewhat, but Hurts is not averse to firing across his body to the opposite side if need be, and the energy he brought to the huddle and the way his teammates responded to him (both offense and defense from the sidelines) was infectious. [...]

Of course, the evaluation of the quarterback will continue. I wouldn't anticipate any proclamations just yet. Philly's aggressive general manager Howie Roseman is always up for a blockbuster should there be a trade to be made for a proven young starter -- which seems a stretch at this point. But Hurts is displaying more than sufficient promise to indicate he can win games at this level, and is clearly their best option.  []

We'll likely get to see our first taste of the Hurts-DeVonta Smith connection in an Eagles uniform against the Jets, given that the starters are likely to play in this one now that there are only three preseason games instead of four. 

Grading Smith's debut

Ben Natan | Bleeding Green Nation

Speaking of Smith, Ben Natan of Bleeding Green Nation took a look at all the Eagles rookies and graded their performances against the Patriots. Despite some drops, Smith, who is +1800 to win Offensive Rookie of the Year over at Pickswise, fared quite well in his NFL debut. 

DeVonta Smith: B-

It was clear that the Eagles wanted to get DeVonta Smith involved in his preseason debut. He saw a handful of targets in the first half from Joe Flacco. It took a bit for the two to get on the same page, with Flacco misfiring on early throws and Smith not able to adjust to poorly thrown balls.

Towards the end of the half, Flacco got DeVonta Smith the ball twice on short passes. Both times, Smith won early at the line of scrimmage, secured a catch and then picked up yards after the catch. 

The game hardly seemed too big for DeVonta Smith, even with the early drops. He looked fast, aggressive and confident against a tough defensive backfield. This is an encouraging start to his career.  []

Now we'll just have to see what he looks like with the starting QB under center. 

Rookies on the rise

Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports Philadelphia

One of the staples of preseason football is the stock watch, where reporters determine in which direction certain players are trending. And right now, with the roster cuts rapidly approaching, it's as important as ever for players to be trending in the right direction. A great start to camp can be ruined if you're struggling at the wrong time. 

Over at NBC Sports Philly, Dave Zangaro took a look at a handful of players whose stock is on the rise and a handful whose is on the decline. Today, in an effort to keep you in a positive mood on this August Saturday, let's take a look at three of the players Zangaro has heading in the right direction, all of whom are rookies. 

Kenny Gainwell

We got a heavy dose of the fifth-round running back out of Memphis in the third quarter and Gainwell did fairly well. The good news is that he at least looks like he belongs. He ended up with 5 carries for 21 yards (4.2) and 3 catches for 23 (7.7). The Eagles got him out of there for the fourth quarter.

Milton Williams

The Eagles’ second- and third-team defenders didn’t look great on Thursday with the exception of Williams. He played defensive end and was a handful at times, drawing two offensive holding calls on the same drive in the second quarter. [...]

DeVonta Smith

The numbers won’t blow you away — 2 catches on 4 targets, 19 yards. And Smith even got off to a slow start with a couple drops. But the fact that he was able to play in this game and show off his route-running ability — and the knee didn’t seem like an issue — was a win. I think it was important for him to play in the preseason, and he at least got his feet wet. This play in particular was great. It’s exactly what Nick Sirianni wants to see at the top of routes: 


Ups and downs

Jeff Kerr | CBS Sports

It's nice to see some positives surrounding the Eagles rookies, especially first-round pick DeVonta Smith, who suffered an injury in camp but didn't appear to let that hurt his early development. However, the most encouraging sign for the Birds might be the fact that Smith is hardly the only receiver showing out — and that's a dramatic change from what we've been seeing out of that position in recent seasons. 

Over at CBS Sports, Jeff Kerr didn't have Smith listed among his risers, but he did have a pair of second-year receivers, including Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins. Since Watkins got plenty of press last week following his big touchdown in the preseason opener, let's take a look at what Kerr has to say about the former first-round pick... 

Jalen Reagor

Reagor didn't have the best of performances in Thursday's preseason game against the Patriots, but the whole team has to hit the reset button after that loss (plans changed after Hurts was inactive and sent to the hospital with a stomach infection). Heading into the game, Reagor had performed very well in camp and emerged as the No. 2 option to DeVonta Smith. 

The highlight reel catches are what's trending on social media, but Reagor has been making contested catches and becoming a reliable asset in the passing game. Amazing what chemistry with a quarterback and a healthy offensive line can do for a player who's just 22 years old. 

Philadelphia's wide receiver group is formidable if Reagor lives up to his first-round talent. He's looked the part over the past two weeks.  []

Unfortunately, despite our attempt to avoid the flip side of this coin, we no longer can. That's because it hasn't been all positives for the Eagles receiving corps. Travis Fulgham, who spent a month last season as the best WR in the NFL, might be in danger of not making this roster, potentially losing out to guys like J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who has the fact that he was drafted by the Eagles helping him but who also has lower numbers in his entire two-year career (24 games) than Fulgham had in that epic four-game stretch last season. 

Stock down

Travis Fulgham

Fulgham barely saw the field Thursday night, not even cracking the first team in an anemic first half by an offense comprised of mostly second team players. Fulgham was on special teams in the fourth quarter of a preseason game, a sign he's competing for a roster spot. Starting the game on kickoff coverage isn't a good sign he's in the plans as a first or second team receiver either. 

Fulgham played just 14 snaps in Thursday's loss and received just one target. Watkins has passed him on the depth chart and both Hightower and Arcega-Whiteside may be next. 

At this point, it wouldn't be a surprise if Fulgham doesn't make this roster. Just brace yourself, Eagles fans.  []

Eagles or lame ducks?

Gregg Rosenthal |

And now, let's look even further into the future at next offseason, where the Eagles could be in danger of losing two of the top 25 free agents in the entire NFL. 

I'm not going to lie, it always blows my mind seeing how well respected Jordan Mailata is around the league. Not because he doesn't deserve it, but because he seems like one of those guys the local media and fans would hold in higher regard than the national media — not only because he plays offensive line, but because we're more attuned to his story and want so badly to see him succeed. 

But to see he's listed as the 14th best free agent in next year's class, nine spots ahead of Dallas Goedert and ahead of guys like Marshon Lattimore and Chandler Jones? That's pretty impressive, and speaks to not only the importance of the position he plays but also how much he's developed as a football talent in just a few short years of playing the game. 

14. Jordan Mailata

Philadelphia Eagles · OT · Age 24

No better current NFL example of Bill Parcells' "Planet Theory." There just aren't many humans walking the Earth with Mailata's combination of size and movement skills. While this ranking admittedly projects another big step from the former rugby player who only picked up football in 2017, his rapid ascension as part of the International Player Pathway Program indicates the left tackle can still get a lot better. [...]

23. Dallas Goedert

Philadelphia Eagles · TE · Age 26

The Eagles should want to re-sign Jordan Mailata and/or Goedert ASAP because they are both set up to see their value explode. Every team needs a tight end like Goedert, who can do it all and is just entering his prime.  []

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